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I was doing everything right.

I was exercising 6 days a week including cardio and weights, and playing pickleball at least 3 days a week.

I was eating healthy, watching my carbs and refined sugars (more or less).

My body fat percentage at XX% put me in the top 15% of adult males.

I visited my doctor yearly, and did all the necessary blood work and follow-up checkups. My cholesterol (I didn’t even know what that was quite frankly) was fine.

And then, on August 18th, 2023, I had a heart attack. I was rushed by ambulance to the hospital where they installed a stent in my widowmaker, the main artery that leads to the heart, where there was a 100% blockage.

I was about 20 minutes from death.

How is it possible that an otherwise metabolically healthy 55 year old male, with no signs of heart problems or angina, has a life threatening heart attack?

It turns out that this happens.  A Lot.  Every Single Day. In fact, 50% of people who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.

It turns out that the leading cause of death in the world, by far, is cardiovascular disease (CVD).

And here’s a trivia question.

What do you think the first sign of heart disease is?

I’ll give you a minute to think of the answer.

Death.

That’s right. Sudden cardiac death is the first manifestation of heart disease

What if I told you that a simple, 10-minute, non invasive test could indicate whether you have cardiovascular disease and prevent XX% of heart attacks?

Would you take that test?

Would you want to know?

That question was somewhat rhetorical, quite frankly.

I realize that many people wouldn’t want to know if they have CVD, but, the majority of people would.

And then I ask …

Why wasn’t any of this explained to me many years ago?

Why didn’t I take this simple test?

—-

Ten days after my heart attack, I had my first cardiology appointment.

As you can imagine, the first appointment with my cardiologist just days after a major, life threatening heart attack, and I had a list of questions, and concerns I wanted to review.

Some of my questions

– Why did I have a heart attack?

 – What can I do to prevent this from happening again?

 – How can I track my progression of CVD to make sure that the plaque in my arteries is regressing rather than progressing?

My doctor had given me ten minutes.

That’s all.

I had a major HA, and the doctor game me ten minutes.

To the doctor, I was just another patient.

For me, this was the most traumatic experience I have every had, in my life.  BY FAR.

Needless to say, I didnt get any of the answers I was looking for.

On his way out, I asked my doctor when the next appointment would be.

One year.

Wait.  What?

Is there anything I need to do in the next year? I ask.

“Listen to you’d body, and take your meds”, he says.

As it turns out, and what I discovered when I reread the hospital discharge paperwork, was the following:

It says right there on the discharge paperwork that my doctor should titrate (adjust) my meds and reassess my CBC (Complete Blood Count), creatnine levels, and so on, one to two weeks post discharge.

I was curious.

Why is it important to do follow-up blood work after starting a patient on new meds? And in my case, six new meds.

It turns out that many people’s bodies don’t react as expected to all of these medications.

Sometimes the blood pressure meds don’t work as expected. Or their cholesterol doesn’t go down, or their liver enzymes react negatively.  And the list goes on.

So how do you know what’s going on with your body?

You do follow up blood work.

———————————-

I awoke the morning after the cardiology appointment in a panic.  I couldn’t sleep.

What if my blood work showed that there was a problem?

I coulnd’t wait a year to see my cardiologist.

The discharge paperwork clearly says to do follow-up blood work in the next one to two weeks.

And that’s when I realized that I needed to own my health file and that I couldn’t count on the doctors to guide me in the right direction.  Yes, the doctors had saved my life, but, I had to own my continuing care.

I had so many questions I wanted answers to, but first, I had to educate myself.

I wanted to know how an otherwise healthy individual with normal cholsterol, no agina (heart pains), could have a life threatening heart attack.

I wanted to know what I needed to do so that this didn’t happen again.

So I started doing what I’ve always done.

I began to research. And read.  And read some more.

I needed to know everything I could know about cardiovascular disease so that this didn’t happen again.

——————————–

Your Heart Attack Risk is In Your Genes, Your Blood, Your Mouth, Your Diet

It’s In Your Genes

I was speaking to a friend about heart attack risk and cardiovasuclar disease.  

My friend had also had a heart attack a few years prior.

He asked me, almost as if I knew, if I had the heart attack gene.

The what?

The heart attack gene.

He went on to explain that there’s a gene they call the heart attack gene, and if you have that gene, it puts you at a 400% higher chance of having CVD.

Hmmm … I wondered how many people knew about this gene.

It turns out that 25% (?) of the world’s population (and sometimes higher based on ethnicity) have this heart attack gene.

Why aren’t people speaking about this gene, I wondered.

It’s In Your Blood

A few days later, my sisters came to visit me in Toronto.

One of my sisters casually mentioned that Bob Harper, the actor and fitness coach from the TV show The Biggest Loser, who was super fit, relatively young at 49, ate well, and otherwise metabolically healthy,  had a near death experience from a heart attack, was put into a coma for ten days, survived the heart attack, and now speaks about what he learned.

He discovered that there’s an easy to get blood test that needs to be done once in your life, it provides indication of how elevated your levels of a certain type of cholesterol are, and if these levels are elevated, your risk of heart attack are increased by XXX%.  Not only that, but, these levels can’t be changed regardless of exercise or diet.

You’re Now Ovewhelmed

The reason I am writing all of this isn’t to overwhelm you.  You’re here for a reason.  Perhaps your doctor told you that your cholesterol was high, and that you needed to take a statin for the rest of your life.

Perhaps you have diabetes and heard that there’s a high correlation between your blood sugar levels and CVD?

Perhaps you have some minor heart pains when you exercise, or your left arm hurts when you elevate your heart rate?

Perhaps your father/mother, grandparent … had a heart attack, and you’ve now reached that age where you are wondering if the same might happen to you.

Or, maybe you’re like me, you had a heart attack (hopefully not), and now you want to understand why this happened, and what you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

————————————

It’s in Your Mouth, Your Diet, Your Sugar 

Periodontal risk …

Nutrition

A1C

————————————

Let’s Tie This Together

After all of this learning, I decided I needed to do all of these tests. I needed to know my genes, blood, periodontal risk, and so on.

So what did I learn?

I learned that I was way over my head. But, I had to start somewhere.

So I started doing the blood tests.  

Some weren’t available in Canada, so I had to go to the US to do them.

I went to the US to do the periodontal testing.

I paid, out of pocket, do that ten minute ultrasound test.

I subscribed to 23andMe to get the genetic testing done.

I discovered that there are clinics in the US where they will do all of this testing, all in one place, and provide you with your risk markers to help you better understand how to mitigate the risk of a first, or reoccurred heart attack.

But, you can’t get all of these tests in one place in Canada.

So, I continued reading and took courses.

I attended a cardiology course in Phoenix in April 2024, and although that doesn’t make me a cardiologist, or doctor for that matter, it does make me a more educated individual, better able to understand what I need to do, and how I can better help myself to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

So what did I discover … CLICK HERE TO READ MORE